Economic Libertarianism, Christian Reconstructionism, and the Republican Party
Chip Berlet printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Feb 19, 2007 at 05:24:07 PM EST
Following the trail of how “Free Market” libertarianism intersected with conservative versions of Calvinist Christianity leads us to aggressive forms of Dominionism and theocratic forms such as Christian Reconstructionism; and how they influenced the Republican Party economic and social welfare policies beginning in the 1980s.

Among the many contributors to the Libertarian Freeman magazine in the 1960s and 1970s were Rousas J. Rushdoony and Gary North, both of whom would go on to become the founding intellectuals of the theocratic Christian Reconstructionist movement.

In the 1960s, Rushdoony wrote a tract “Christianity and Capitalism” for the Free Enterprise Department of the Coast Federal Savings & Loan Association. Coast was headed by businessman Joe Crail, author of another tract, “A Businessman’s Look at “Communism vs. Capitalism.” During this period there were continual attempts to harness widespread anti-communism to attempts to roll back the social policies of the New Deal, and even the idea of a “redistributive” income tax, seen as punishing the successful and denying them their just rewards.

In “Christianity and Capitalism” Rushdoony wrote:

“Thus, any attack on the idea of rewards and punishments is an attack on God’s order. Second, rewards and punishments presuppose liberty as basic to man’s condition. Man is free to strive, to compete, to work for rewards and to suffer penalties. Thus, any attack on these concepts is also an attack on liberty; it is an insistence that a leveling equality together with total controls is a better condition for man than liberty is or can be. St. Paul declared ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty’ (2 Cor. 3:17). God and liberty are inseparable.” (pp. 1-2)

According to Rushdoony, Free Market capitalism is a product of Christianity, “and in particular, of Puritanism which, more than any other faith, has furthered capitalization.” (p. 5). He asserts that before “the United States began its course of socialism and inflation,” (think New Deal) it had already “abandoned its historic Christian Position.” (p. 5). Unworthy Christians lead to bad economics.

Rushdoony argued that “Socialism is organized larceny,” because “like inflation, it takes from the haves to give to the have-nots. By destroying capital, it destroys progress and pushes society into disaster.” (p. 6). By extension, this logic applies to “Big Government” and taxation.

The Chalcedon Foundation, founded by Rushdoony, described itself in a version of that pamphlet republished in 2000, as condemning the “dissolution of family authority, abortion, confiscatory statism, injustice, and humanistic education.” “Confiscatory statism,” is such an elastic concept, no?

Gary North worked for Rushdoony at Chalcedon as a young man, before splitting over theological disputes (while splitting away with Rushdoony’s daughter who became North’s wife). According to North:

“I decided at age 18 that I would try to discover the relationship between the Bible and economic theory. I was persuaded by The Freeman that Mises had the correct approach: market freedom. But I had become a Christian at age 17, and I was convinced in 1960 that the Bible applies to all areas of life, including economics. I wanted to know if Mises' economics related to the Bible. My first published effort in this regard was my book, An Introduction to Christian Economics (1973).” ( http://www.lewrockwell.com/north/north145.html)

In 1991 Australian Ian Hodge, wrote “Christian Economics: The Social Conditions for Wealth” for The Counsel of Chalcedon, a publication of the Chalcedon Presbyterian Church of Atlanta, Georgia with Dr. Joseph C. Moorecraft, III as minister. It describes itself as “A Monthly Christian Magazine Applying the Bible to Every Aspect of Life.” Reconstuctionist Gary DeMar was a contributing editor, and Reconstructionist Greg Bahnsen wrote articles.

Hodge argues that it “is evident from the Bible that it is clearly wrong to make money and wealth out goal in life. But when our goal is God’s glory, then the pursuit of wealth as a necessary means to finance the extension of God’s kingdom on this earth, is a noble and worthy task.” (Vol. 13, No. 10, December 1991, p. 21).

Another publication promoting Dominionist and Reconstructionist ideas was Crosswinds: The Reformation Digest, published by the Coalition on Revival. In 1994 Dennis Peacocke, wrote “Understanding the Critical Difference Between Justice and Equality.” (Vol. 2, No. 2, Fall/Winter 1994-1995).

Peacocke states that “the Bible does not teach that all men are equal, and no amount of social legislation or economic restructuring through tax policy can change this reality.” (p. 45). According to Peacocke, God put within man “the urge to take dominion….” (p. 45). Apparently, this urge is made impotent by the welfare state and taxation. As Peacocke explains:

“Forced wealth distribution is inherently anti-family. It created dependence on government entitlements rather than on strong, covenantal family responsibilities. Civil government systematically undermines the family as God’s conduit of blessing when it takes wealth from those who create it and gives it to those who do not.” (p. 47.).

This same issue carries a special section on the “Economic Scene,” including these articles:

  • E. Calvin Beisner, “Is There an Invisible Hand Helping the Poor?”
  • E. Calvin Beisner, “Stewardship and the Free Market.”
  • Alan Samson, “Inflation and the Quality of Character.”

“Is There an Invisible Hand Helping the Poor?” is answered by Beisner in the affirmative. The constructive invisible hand of the Free Market is guided by God’s plan, but there is a destructive invisible hand of the “welfare state.” Citing Charles Murray’s book Losing Ground (1984), Beisner claims the “burgeoning growth of major welfare programs and spending in the 1960s and 1970s” spread “debilitating behaviors encouraged by welfare programs” among Black Americans, and thus “did the invisible hand of the welfare state stop dead in its tracks and then reverse the progressive narrowing of the gap in income and employment between blacks and whites.” (p. 59). In this way issues such as institutional racism are swept aside and buried by the invisible hand of the Free Market.

Dominionism as a tendency within Christian evangelicalism developed in a synergistic way with the unregulated Free Market ideology promoted by conservatives after WWII and the Republican Party since the Reagan Revolution starting in 1980. Both tendencies share some of the same historic and intellectual roots, which can be traced by exploring back issues of the Freeman. It should be no surprise, then, that what on the surface seems like an unlikely alliance within the Republican Party—economic libertarians and Christian evangelicals—actually has many points of convergence.

See Also:

God, Calvin, and Social Welfare: A Series

Fundamentalists Embrace Darwin!

The Christian Right, Calvinism, and Free Market Ideology

Calvin, the Free Market, and Poverty


Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates

The Public Eye: Website of Political Research Associates
Chip's Blog




Display:
If there was an invisible hand helping the poor, why is poverty growing so much- and the gap between the rich and poor expanding at the rate it is?

No, the "invisible hand" of greed is taking from the poor and giving to the rich- and it's THEIR hand.  This can be demonstrated.  The rich are getting government help and tax breaks- and the poor and working people are being forced to support them.

The "welfare state" of the post-war period can also be demonstrated as having reduced the gap between the rich and poor.  Welfare for the most part worked- but the lies of the conservatives (and big business) have been bought by most of the people in this country.

We've discussed how Calvinism and dominionism actually practice "social Darwinism"... this is just another example of their blind idiocy and greed.

I'd add to that a complete lack of care for their fellow man.

by ArchaeoBob on Mon Feb 19, 2007 at 06:06:27 PM EST


Too little has been said about Beisner's role.

by Bruce Wilson on Mon Feb 19, 2007 at 06:35:08 PM EST
I hadn't understood the role Beisner played in shaping these claims until I began digging around in older serials.
_ _ _

Chip Berlet: Research for Progress - Building Human Rights
by Chip Berlet on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 08:21:47 PM EST
Parent


Free market capitalism is the result of classic Adam Smith liberalism. What these folks mislabel as "socialism" is actually contemporary economic liberalism which is classical liberalism tempered by both the Protestant Social Gospel and Roman Catholic distributive justice movements.

As proof of how ill-informed they are, the Chalcedon web site quotes F. A. Hayek, who contrary to these folks wrote this about his beliefs.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Mon Feb 19, 2007 at 07:24:02 PM EST

Well, at least he claimed his turf...
_ _ _

Chip Berlet: Research for Progress - Building Human Rights
by Chip Berlet on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 08:24:00 PM EST
Parent


Right now, a lot of people are buying into the myth that they too can be rich, but the economic signs are not good. Kevin Phillips notes in his book American Theocracy that the American economy has become increasingly dependent upon foreign loans to keep it afloat and that the American economy is also increasingly financialized. In turn, the financialization leads to greater extremes of wealth and poverty, which a lot of people are papering over with credit card debt.  The American economy isn't producing much of anything except how to make money off money. I really fear that we will see a reprise of the Great Depression in my lifetime.

Frank, you are right about the so-called "socialism" being capitalism tempered by distributive justice and the Social Gospel. My father calls the philosophy of the "free marketers" this-"I got mine, now you go out and get yours." We both hate this philosophy, but most people aren't going to realize it until things get bad again.

by khughes1963 on Mon Feb 19, 2007 at 09:04:01 PM EST


not to equate libertarianism with Christianity, and especially not with Christian reconstructionists. The Gary Norths may claim to be libertarians but they're not, as their dystopic vision of a society that enforces Biblical law makes quite clear. I am a libertarian, though on economic matters hardly a dogmatic one, and I can tell you that the vast, vast majority of libertarians not only are not theocrats, they are staunchly opposed to them.

by Ed Brayton on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 12:22:59 PM EST
True libertarians are really classic liberals. As an FDR-RFK liberal myself, I find that once I get past economic issues, I have much in common with libetarians. So, while I can appreciate a Jim Pinkerton, I cannot deal with either  David Brooks or Jerry Falwell.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 01:10:34 PM EST
Parent

Well, they call themselves libertarians, but it is true that many libertarians have little in common with the theocratric wing of the Austrian School libertarians.
_ _ _

Chip Berlet: Research for Progress - Building Human Rights
by Chip Berlet on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 08:25:58 PM EST
Parent



WWW Talk To Action


Priebus' RNC Israel Trip Organizer: "Wage War To Restore a Christian America"
image, right: Pastor David Lane, screenshot from Right Wing Watch video "Where are the champions of Christ to save the nation from the pagan......
By Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
The Theocrats' New Clothes: A Naked Call for Political Dominion
Like the monarch in Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tale, The Emperor's New Clothes, the theocratic ambitions of the organizers of the big Christian Right......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
The Republican Diversity Program... Is Working
The Washington Post recently underscored the larger point in this post, which goes far beyond the issues of the GOP diversity program. So I......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Unholy Alliance for Bloomberg's Everytown for Gun Safety
When I obtained a post from a private email listserv of gun control advocates, I wasn't sure what to do with it. Then I......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Bobby Jindal's Big Rally for Christian Right Dominion
There is a big Christian Right rally in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Saturday, January 24th. The event, called The Response, is intended to, among......
By Frederick Clarkson (4 comments)
Dominionism, Gov. Rick Perry and The Response Rally of 2011
The David Pakman Show recently rebroadcast this "Classic Interview"  with Rachel Tabachnick in which they discuss her groundbreaking work on the New Apostolic Reformation,......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Religious Freedom as Revolution
In which I discuss Religious Freedom Day on the David Pakman Show. I said, among other things, "The idea of religious freedom was one......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
President Obama's Religious Freedom Day Proclamation
As is the annual custom, Mr. Obama issued the the Presidential Proclamation for Religious Freedom Day, 2015. I have republished the whole thing after......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Seize the Day (Religious Freedom Day) on Social Media
Today is Religious Freedom Day! And there are ways to participate on social media on this, the most important national Day that most of......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Silencing Dissent: How Biased Civil Rights Policies Stifle Dialogue on Israel
"Silencing Dissent: How Biased Civil Rights Policies Stifle Dialogue on Israel" is a new article in Tikkun Magazine, (January 2015) by Chip Berlet and......
By Chip Berlet (0 comments)
Antisemitism and Islamophobia on U.S. College Campuses
Here are the Recommendations from the Report "Constructing Campus Conflict: Antisemitism and Islamophobia on U.S. College Campuses, 2007-2011: published by Political Research Associates, 2014......
By Chip Berlet (1 comment)
What Did Jefferson & 18th Century Evangelicals Have in Common?
What did Jefferson and 18th century evangelicals have in common?  If you guessed separation of church and state, you can go to the head......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Waking the Sleeping Beast of Religious Liberty
This piece originally appeared as an op-ed at LGBTQ Nation. Something remarkable happened in the run up to the decision of the U.S. Supreme......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Rousing Remarks: Remembering Mario Cuomo's Powerful Speech On Religion And Politics
Two memorable speeches were delivered in the early 1980s on separation of church and state. The first was by U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy......
By Rob Boston (0 comments)
Huckabee Dumps Fox News -- Might Jump in to the Race for 2016
According to a statement on his web site, tonight will be Mike Huckabee's last show on Fox where he has held forth on Saturday......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)

Galt and God: Ayn Randians and Christian Rightists Expand Ties
Ayn Rand's followers find themselves sharing a lot of common ground with the Christian Right these days. The Tea Party, with its stress on righteous liberty and a robust form of capitalism, has been......
JSanford (0 comments)
Witchhunts in Africa and the U.S.A.
Nigerian human rights activist Leo Igwe has recently written at least two blog posts about how some African Pentecostal churches are sending missionaries to Europe and the U.S.A. in an attempt to "re-evangelize the......
Diane Vera (0 comments)
Charles Taze Russell and John Hagee
No doubt exists that Texas mega-church Pastor John Hagee would be loathe to be associated with the theology of Pastor C.T. Russell (wrongly credited with founding the Jehovah's Witnesses) but their theological orbits, while......
COinMS (0 comments)
A death among the common people ... imagination.
Or maybe my title would better fit as “Laws, Books, where to find, and the people who trust them.”What a society we've become!The wise ones tell us over and over how the more things......
Arthur Ruger (0 comments)
Deconstructing the Dominionists, Part VI
This is part 6 of a series by guest front pager Mahanoy, originally dated November 15, 2007 which I had to delete and repost for technical reasons. It is referred to in this post,......
Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Republican infighting in Mississippi
After a bruising GOP runoff election for U.S. Senator, current MS Senator Thad Cochran has retained his position and will face Travis Childers (Democrat) in the next senate election. The MS GOP is fractured......
COinMS (2 comments)
America's Most Convenient Bank® refuses to serve Christians
Representatives of a well known faith-based charitable organization were refused a New Jersey bank’s notarization service by an atheist employee. After inquiring about the nature of the non-profit organization and the documents requiring......
Jody Lane (5 comments)
John Benefiel takes credit for GOP takeover of Oklahoma
Many of you know that Oklahoma has turned an unrecognizable shade of red in recent years.  Yesterday, one of the leading members of the New Apostolic Reformation all but declared that he was responsible......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
John Benefiel thinks America is under curse because Egyptians dedicated North America to Baal
You may remember that Rick Perry put together his "Response" prayer rallies with the help of a slew of NAR figures.  One of them was John Benefiel, an Oklahoma City-based "apostle."  He heads up......
Christian Dem in NC (5 comments)
Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Yes, that's right. We have totally lost our religious freedom in Mississippi and it must be restored by our legislators. ......
COinMS (1 comment)
Bill Gothard accused of harassing women and failing to report child abuse
Surprised no one's mentioned this, but one of the longest-standing leaders of the religious right is in a world of trouble.  Bill Gothard has been active in the fundie movement for over half......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
Eugene Delgaudio may lose his day job as Virginia county supervisor
Surprised no one's noticed this, but one of the nation's most virulent homophobes is in a fight to keep his day job.  Eugene Delgaudio is best known as the head of Public Advocate......
Christian Dem in NC (1 comment)
Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents
This caught me by surprise. I guess times are a changin in Dixieland. ------------------------------------- Cross posted from the HRC blog. Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents January 21,......
COinMS (0 comments)
Robert Knight: Running against evolution could potentially be a winner for the GOP
In one of the starkest instances yet of how far gone the religious right is, one of its leading activists thinks that he's found another potential wedge issue that could drive more people into......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
First Catholic official convicted in child sex abuse scandal has conviction overturned
Last year, Monsignor William Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's secretary for clergy, was convicted of reassigning a priest whom he knew had molested a young boy to a parish that had a school attached......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)

More Diaries...




All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.